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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey guys, I just bought an 09 Frontier with 52k miles and just started reading a lot about the radiators having issues in 05+ Frontiers that are causing transmission failure. My question is what years was this a problem on? Was it fixed by 09? Before I bought the truck I did a lot of research and did not see many people reporting these issues in 09-10 but a lot of people reporting it in early years. I also had the dealer look at the fluids prior to buying and it seemed fine. Just curious at what mileage this happens and what actually causes the issue. Any insight is greatly appreciated?
 

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Peace of mind for a fully functioning truck is as simple as a new radiator from Nissan or an aftermarket equivalent.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Anybody else know if the issues were fixed in 09? Also does the climate you drive the truck in matter? Mine has been in Texas and Las Vegas its whole life so no rust corrosion issues?.
 

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The issue was caused by a failure of a seal in the radiator's integral cooler; it's not a corrosion issue as some have suggested. When the seal fails, the engine coolant and transmission fluid can cross-contaminate. This issue occurs on 2005 though 2010 Frontiers/Xterras/Pathfinders with the VQ40DE engine with the orignial, Calsonic radiator. Most of the failures have occurred on 05-07 models, but there have been failures on later models, including 09-10 model years. That said, any radiator with an integral oil cooler (or coolers, as some vehicles have integral transmission fluid AND engine oil coolers) has the "potential" to experience a cooler failure, but they are, on the whole, very reliable and have been used for decades. It was just these particular Calsonic radiators had a high rate of cooler failures. Calsonic, as a company, has been a long-time manufacturer of parts for Nissans, including exhaust systems, air conditioning systems and even dashboards. Nissan bought out the company in the mid-2000's, which, ironically, is when the cooler problems started in the Frontiers/Xterras/Pathfinders and also when the problems with cracked, lower radiator tanks started in the Titans/Armadas.
There are several options to avoid the issue. The cheapest is to simply bypass the radiator's integral cooler and rely only on the factory installed, auxiliary tans cooler. This method usually does a pretty good job at cooling the fluid and there is really no need to add an additional cooler, however, it does eliminate the radiator's integral cooler's ability to warm the transmission fluid (transmission fluid operates ideally around 175-200 degrees F.) as well as provide the ability for additional cooling, if needed. Liquid to liquid coolers are far more efficient than liquid to air coolers. Also, those who have done the bypass method and measured their trans fluid temperatures have reported readings around 155-165 degrees F. under "normal driving conditions." While this is slightly below the "ideal" range, it is still okay, however, you do not want to run transmission fluid consistently at temperatures below 150 degrees F. The integral cooler will warm the fluid more quickly and better maintain it in the ideal range.
The other options include radiator replacement. The genuine Nissan radiator is around $550 ($450 online) and they have a value line option for $350, which is still a lot for a plastic tanked radiator. Most of the aftermarket, plastic tanked radiators are made in China, including the popular Spectra Premium, but they are, on the whole, well-constructed and can be had in the $100 range. For the same $350 that you could spend on a Nissan value line radiator, you can get an all-aluminum, CSF radiator from Stillen Motorsports that will bolt right in. Any option is better than gambling on whether the factory radiator will fail and ruin the transmission or not.
 
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Anybody else know if the issues were fixed in 09? Also does the climate you drive the truck in matter? Mine has been in Texas and Las Vegas its whole life so no rust corrosion issues?.
09's were affected (05-10).

Climate (or exterior rust/corrosion) does not appear to be a factor.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
The issue was caused by a failure of a seal in the radiator's integral cooler; it's not a corrosion issue as some have suggested. When the seal fails, the engine coolant and transmission fluid can cross-contaminate. This issue occurs on 2005 though 2010 Frontiers/Xterras/Pathfinders with the VQ40DE engine with the orignial, Calsonic radiator. Most of the failures have occurred on 05-07 models, but there have been failures on later models, including 09-10 model years. That said, any radiator with an integral oil cooler (or coolers, as some vehicles have integral transmission fluid AND engine oil coolers) has the "potential" to experience a cooler failure, but they are, on the whole, very reliable and have been used for decades. It was just these particular Calsonic radiators had a high rate of cooler failures. Calsonic, as a company, has been a long-time manufacturer of parts for Nissans, including exhaust systems, air conditioning systems and even dashboards. Nissan bought out the company in the mid-2000's, which, ironically, is when the cooler problems started in the Frontiers/Xterras/Pathfinders and also when the problems with cracked, lower radiator tanks started in the Titans/Armadas.
There are several options to avoid the issue. The cheapest is to simply bypass the radiator's integral cooler and rely only on the factory installed, auxiliary tans cooler. This method usually does a pretty good job at cooling the fluid and there is really no need to add an additional cooler, however, it does eliminate the radiator's integral cooler's ability to warm the transmission fluid (transmission fluid operates ideally around 175-200 degrees F.) as well as provide the ability for additional cooling, if needed. Liquid to liquid coolers are far more efficient than liquid to air coolers. Also, those who have done the bypass method and measured their trans fluid temperatures have reported readings around 155-165 degrees F. under "normal driving conditions." While this is slightly below the "ideal" range, it is still okay, however, you do not want to run transmission fluid consistently at temperatures below 150 degrees F. The integral cooler will warm the fluid more quickly and better maintain it in the ideal range.
The other options include radiator replacement. The genuine Nissan radiator is around $550 ($450 online) and they have a value line option for $350, which is still a lot for a plastic tanked radiator. Most of the aftermarket, plastic tanked radiators are made in China, including the popular Spectra Premium, but they are, on the whole, well-constructed and can be had in the $100 range. For the same $350 that you could spend on a Nissan value line radiator, you can get an all-aluminum, CSF radiator from Stillen Motorsports that will bolt right in. Any option is better than gambling on whether the factory radiator will fail and ruin the transmission or not.

That is all really great info. Do you really think I will be causing any harm by bypassing the cooler? I do not do a ton of towing but might be towing a 5x10 trailer 1200 miles here in the next year. If you were in my situation with 52k miles on my 09 Frontier would you stay where I am at, bypass the cooler, or replace the radiator as a whole? I plan on keeping the truck a long time. Also my truck is covered under the extended warranty for another 6 months or so as well.
 

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A contamination failure can result in the need for another auto trans. Yeah, pricey. A replacement radiator is cheap insurance.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Might be a long shot but is there anyone on here in the Las Vegas area that would not mind helping me do the bypass? With living in a warm climate I should not have to worry about trans temps being too low and I think this might be the best option.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Awesome info guys I will do the bypass this weekend. I checked my radiator cap and it looks clean as a whistle so I am in luck but should be at my mileage 52k.

Anyone in Las Vegas on this board that has done this that might want to supervise? There is beer in it for you...
 

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There's really nothing to it. I'm a moderator at TheNissanPath.com for several years and there's plenty of members that have bypassed without any issues. Personally, I have an 06 and 08 Pathfinder. Initially, I replaced the radiator on the 06 with a $92 Ebay radiator and got new foam seals from Nissan. It's been about five years without any issues. On the 08, I started out by doing the bypass for about a year. Then, I got a great deal on a brand new Koyorad radiator for $50 from someone who had sold their Pathfinder before they had a chance to install it, so, I replaced the radiator in the 08, as well. The bypass on the early models with the auxiliary cooler on the passenger side are really easy; all you have to do is switch the houses around. In 2008, they moved the auxiliary cooler to the driver's side. On my 08, I got 3' of 5/16" transmission hose and four hose clamps from the local auto parts store and two, 5/16" vacuum caps. I removed the front skid plate. From under the vehicle, I removed the two cooler hoses from the radiator; the left hose goes from the transmission to a line union on the side of the radiator. I used brake cleaner and low-pressure, compressed air to blow the trans fluid out of the radiator cooler. I installed the vacuum caps on the cooler fittings on the radiator and clamped them. I ran the new hose to the line union and clamped it. I ran the hose to the trans cooler line on the passenger side, cut to size, installed and clamped. I used a plastic tie strap to help secure the hose to the bottom of the radiator shroud. Cleaned up the mess, started the vehicle, checked the fluid level (I didn't need to add any), checked for leaks and re-installed the skid plate. It takes about 30 minutes, +/-.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Hey last ? if I do the bypass this weekend, do i run the risk of causing any damage to the tranny by having it run too hot? I know it has a trans cooler in front of the radiator and wondering if that will be sufficent to tow utility trailers loaded and jet skis? I just do not want to make a mistake and keep the truck a long time so sorry for the ?'s
 

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Based on what I've read so far you should be ok with the bypass...but I'd save up to get a new pepper radiator by the time the weather starts getting warmer if it was me with towing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Cool but it should be fine in a Vegas summer just driving around normal though with the bypass?

Also can I just route the drivers side radiator hose over to the passenger side splice point and totally remove the passenger side rad cooler hose? That way if/when I get the new radiator I can just reroute the hoses and add back the passenger hose?
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Cool but it should be fine in a Vegas summer just driving around normal though with the bypass?

Also can I just route the drivers side radiator hose over to the passenger side splice point and totally remove the passenger side rad cooler hose? That way if/when I get the new radiator I can just reroute the hoses and add back the passenger hose?
 

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I have a 2005 Frontier. Happened to me. I had to come out of pocket to repair it. Needed a new radiator. I was able to get away with having the transmission flushed and refilled. I had no clue about this problem. All work was done at Nissan. I tried to get them to work with me on price but to no avail.
 

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I have an 06 and happened to me a few years back when i was around 75k. Covered under warranty. Got a new rad and a tranny
 

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if i had a slush box tranny i would get an ALL aluminum radiator, more costly but same install cost if you don't DIY. Stillen has them on sale now + the tranny cooler section is bigger as well. girlfriends 13 malibu had leaking end tanks so its just a poor design, crimping with a sealer on the high heat nylon tanks or a fully welded alum end tanks are a no-brainer. nothing but custom for her car so in went another similar unit, not OE of course
 

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I'm looking at buying an 07 with 90k miles. If I get it, I'll immediately replace the radiator.
How certain can I be that the seal is currently holding, just from looking under the radiator cap?

I tried scanning the big thread for this info but it's quite long.
 
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